After Progess | Plural Potentialities

29th November 2019, 2.00-6.30pm
London Bridge Hive
1 Melior Place
London SE1 3SZ

In the course of the first two After Progress symposia it has become apparent that, rather than an idea to be criticised, “progress” names instead an entire array of capitalist, colonial and extractivist operations. It is a world-ploughing machine that suffuses the very modern mode of evaluation from which the values of global development, infinite growth, technological innovation, and salvage accumulation are derived. And it is one which simultaneously infuses and animates well-meaning dreams of cosmopolitan redemption, and stories of innocence and reconciliation. Yet, despite its poisonous, ecocidal effects, we have also learned that its ruins are nevertheless teeming with divergent collective experiments whose practices upend the modern dream of progress, cultivating plural and divergent value-ecologies of living with others on Earth. Immanently, such experiments make present that other ways of making life worth living, and of making death worth living for, are not only possible but underway. Thus, in this third session of the series we seek to collectively hold out a trusting hand to a whole series of interstices and undercurrents, to a plurality of minor stories, earthly experiments, speculative propositions, and insistent possibilities, that intensify the political potentials of cultivating pluralistic value-ecologies otherwise – in the ruins of progress.

Speakers include (alphabetically):

Dimitris Papadopoulos (University of Nottingham)
“Progress aside, let’s talk about commoning planetary boundaries.”

Elizabeth A. Povinelli (Columbia University)
Progress in the Shadow of the End

Against the horizon of a possible climate catastrophe idea of progress has recently taken a battering. What is progress if the practices that have driven it since the Industrial Revolution have led to the “sixth extinction.” This talk reflects on progress from two competing traditions. On the one hand, I place the current discussion of the horizon of climate catastrophe in relation to Hannah Arendt’s discussion of atomic catastrophe The Human Condition and Gregory Bateson’s discussion of ecological catastrophe in Mind and Nature. I place these three discussions—atomic, toxic, and climate catastrophe—in a longstanding conversation in Indigenous and Black Atlantic contexts about political tactics in the wake of the colonial catastrophe.

Isabelle Stengers (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
Reclaiming Resurgence

Resurgence may be a common characterization for the divergent collective experiments to what we should hold a trusting hand. Resurgence is what comes after an eradication, and eradication or systematic attempt to eradicate is one of the many meanings of modern progress. It is always a minority experiment, experimenting moreover in a hostile majoritarian environment, an environment which has been shaped and are still shaped, by the very same ongoing eradicating powers. Since this environment includes the academy we are part of, holding a trusting hand may not be sufficient. We have to earn and deserve the trust of those who experiment, that is also, again and again, ask  what William James presented as the “great question” associated with a pluriverse in the making: “does it, with our additions, rise or fall in value? Are the additions worthy or unworthy?” And worthy, here, may well include accepting that our additions express and perform our own need to learn and cultivate resurgence, challenging a hostile academic milieu. I will take two examples, that of a missed opportunity, when feminist academics rejected the so-called ”spiritualist” eco-feminists of the eighties as escapist regression. The second will be the speculative trust required in order to take seriously the possibility of a “right to commoning”. In both cases, generativity will be at the centre of my approach.

Bronislaw Szerszynski (Lancaster University)
Planetary multiplicity, earthly multitudes

Human society has always had to engage with ‘planetary multiplicity’: the way that planets like the Earth, held far from equilibrium, manifest ‘internal difference’, are ‘out of step’ with themselves at all spatial and temporal scales.  This engagement has historically been organised through ‘earthly multitudes’: shared, skilled ways of responding to the opportunities and challenges presented by processes of planetary self-ordering.  Yet modern ‘progress’ has involved the insulation of (some) humans from planetary multiplicity, an insulation that was organised socially (through class relations), geospatially (through colonialism), materially (through the construction of an artefactual milieu for social life), intellectually (in ideas of human exemptionalism in modern thought) and culturally (in utopian fantasies of control) – making earthly multitudes almost disappear from social life.  In this talk, drawing on collaborations with Nigel Clark, I speculate on how, ‘after progress’, new earthly multitudes might arise that engage with planetary multiplicity in new and generative ways.

The event is free, but registration is required due to limited capacity.  To register, please click here.A small number of BURSARIES for unfunded PhD students/ECRs are available (places will be reserved for these, even if the registration list fills up). Deadline for applications is November 6th 2019. For further details on the eligibility criteria and the application process please go here.

This symposium is the second of the After Progress symposium series. The After Progress symposium series co-organised by Dr Martin Savransky (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Dr Craig Lundy (Nottingham Trent University). It is part of the Sociological Review Seminar Series and it is generously funded by The Sociological Review Foundation.

The room that the event will take place in is FULLY ACCESSIBLE.

Travel Directions:

The London Bridge Hive (1 Melior Place) is located to the immediate south of London Bridge Station, less than 5min walk.


After Progress | Plural Potentialities
After Progress |Plural Potentialities